San Juan River Outfitters

new mexico trophy elk and deer hunts

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"These Are the Good Old Days of New Mexico Elk Hunting"

By the fact you're here at this website,  you've probably heard something about elk hunting in New Mexico.  It is  rare and surprising when something lives up to its hype and claims.   I think New Mexico elk hunting is one of those rare subjects.  Time , geography , circumstance and good management have come together to produce elk hunting opportunity which is amongst the worlds best.

The last  half of the last century  marked a period when real efforts were made by many states and Indian tribes to restore  the magnificent elk to this landscape;  the  high mountains, foothills and plains of the West.  This work came together in New Mexico in a remarkable way.    New Mexico has vast areas of  pubic lands with very low human populations.  There are also  several large Indian reservations in the state.  With the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish as a coordinator these public and tribal lands' managers have carried out a program of habitat protection,  forage development, genetic selection,  and hunt controls which brings us to the good place we're in today.  Apache Indian tribes were instrumental early on in bringing in superior elk genetics for herd restoration.   These bulls' progeny roam not only the reservation lands,   but also the millions of acres of Bureau of Land Management and National Forest Service properties which adjoin.  The Mescalero Apache and Jicarilla Apache tribes are to be commended for their early vision and actions in building large elk herds with superior trophy quality. New Mexico Bull Elk
new mexico bull elk The extraordinary diversity and beauty of the New Mexico landscape has contributed not only to it's legendary status as "The Land Of Enchantment" ,  but has provided a slate upon which the story of elk recovery could be written.  The casual traveler through New Mexico will note the miles of low wind scrubbed desert plains and harsh rocky landscape.  All you need do,  though, to appreciate this land's excellence in elk recovery,  is point your car to the nearest visible mountain range,  of which there are many.  As the land gently slopes up the flanks of the mountains, you see the natural transition into lush grassy plains,  pinon / juniper  woods,  and eventually into the high alpine meadows of mixed aspen and conifers.  It is in this area of geographical transition that the elk have staged their comeback.   Elk,  being grazers by nature, thrive in on the nutrient rich grasses of the lower plains.  As the demands of hot weather and water requirements dictate,  the elk seek refuge in the cooler,   wetter, climes of the mountains.   Most of these mountain ranges are designated National Forest properties with the lower flanking properties administered by the Bureau of Land Management.  Most importantly,  these are public lands.   Your lands;   to use,  appreciate,  and to hunt.   The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish,  several years ago,   divide the state into a large number (50+) of individual game management units. This has enabled  individual areas of habitat to be managed in a focused manner with development efforts and hunting pressures regulated to the needs of the specific climes.

Some of the many noteworthy areas of success in elk recovery are the Gila National Forest in the southwest quadrant of the state, the Lincoln National Forest in the southeast quadrant  and the Carson National Forest in the northwest.  

"The Gila" (pronounced "heelah") is a vast rugged area,  It is the  nearly impossibly rough hideout of the famed  Apache war chief Geronimo.   This area was recognized early in the 20th century for its unique natural qualities by Aldo Leopold, the visionary naturalist who was instrumental in creating the Wilderness Act.  A large portion of The Gila  was the first area designated as "wilderness" and protected from development.  It remains the largest area of wilderness in the lower 48 to this day.  Much of this area is accessible only on foot or horseback.  Elk hunting in the Gila grew to legendary status in the last 30 years with truly enormous bulls being taken year after year.  These are the "Gila Monsters"  you've likely heard about.  There are several game management units within the Gila.

The Carson National forest in northwestern NM is is at the foot of the Rocky Mountains as they make their decline from the towering  14,0000'  peaks of southern Colorado. This area hosts several individual sectors of National Forest,  the Jicarilla Apache reservation,  and vast acreages of BLM land.   Elk thrived on the Jicarilla reservation under the careful direction of tribal managers and is now a world renowned  premium trophy area for both elk and mule deer.  The surrounding forest areas benefited early from the spread of elk  off the reservation.   Continued work by the NM Department of Game and Fish has furthered  elk recovery success in this northern sector.  This area is where we are headquartered.  The elk hunts here are excellent 2nd or 3rd choices on you application. These are lower demand hunt units.  They provide a decent hunt with greater odds of drawing a tag.  We suggest them as a "backup" choice with one of our more premium units as a first choice.  This area,  however,  is absolutely top drawer for trophy mule deer.  There are some mule deer hunts offered this year that will be phenomenal.  Visit our mule deer pages for further discussion of these hunts. New Mexico trophy elk hunt 2005 archery kill

Another area to border a a progressive Apache reservation is the Lincoln National Forest near the Ruidoso / Cloudcroft area in southeastern New Mexico.  Here the stark contrast of transition from heated desert floor to shady aspen groves is particularly apparent.  within an hour's drive you go from the cactus studded White Sands Missile Range up to the aspen and fern glades of  Sunspot,  on the high rim of the Sacramento Mountains.   This area is another which has emerged as an elk haven. It  is now so productive for  huge elk and great herd numbers that it has become our top selection for trophy elk hunts. 

 Many speak of the "good old days" of elk hunting. I think if you hunt New Mexico for elk you'll tell your children you were there for the "Good Old Days". We're living them.

When choosing an elk hunt the criteria quickly boils down to two basic subjects.  "Where can I find that elk of my dreams?"  and  then,  "Where can I actually get a license to hunt that elk of my dreams?"   One of my  most important roles as an outfitter is to help you in resolving these issues.  We will help you in the selection of a hunt which will meet your trophy ambitions  and one for which you stand a reasonable chance of getting a license. There are no over the counter elk licenses in New Mexico.  Limited licenses are distributed through a lottery drawing. I'll help you meet the deadline for this application process  with good  hunt choices.  Most importantly,  if you choose to apply through San Juan River Outfitters and Livery Co.,  your application will be processed through the outfitters pool,  which will greatly improve your odds of being drawn for a license (See  "What are my Odds" for a more detailed discussion of your chances) New Mexico trophy archery elk

We will help you make an educated selection from the hundreds of hunt options available.  We'll  match you up with a hunt which meets your trophy aspirations,  budget,  schedule, and weapons choice.   Go to Choosing a Hunt  and we'll discuss some of your options.  

Good luck,  good hunting,  and thank you for considering San Juan River Outfitters and Livery Co. for your New Mexico hunt. I enjoy nothing more than discussing elk hunting,  so please feel free to contact me at either of the numbers below.  Hopefully we can get to see you in New Mexico this fall.


New Mexico trophy mule deer


  For more information select Choosing a Hunt 

San Juan River Outfitters and Livery Co.
 John Jaquez
San Juan River Outfitters and Livery Co.
#200 Rd. 4599
Blanco,NM 87412